Chapter 216 Stay As You Are
Translated by: Ddomigan
‘At the end of the day, we’re still partners.’
Yoojin thought Sung Hyunjae might reassess their relationship due to his inadequacies, but then again, maybe that could be why he was calling right now. They hadn’t contacted each other and he hasn’t spoken a word to Yoojin since that day.
His thoughts were getting complicated, but Yoojin tried not to think deeply about it and replied, ‘I understand. Where should I go?’
He felt that other than coating another layer of paint over the cracks that formed, there was nothing else he could do.
“I have to go see the Sesung guild leader for a while.” Yoojin said.
Yoohyun looked worried upon hearing those words. He approached Yoojin and examined his face.
“You don’t have to overdo it. Should we come into conflict with the Sesung Guild, we’re not in a position where we can’t handle them. We can hold our own just fine.”
“Why would there be a conflict? The Sesung guild leader wouldn’t do anything that’ll require him to give up on both the beast mounts and the blacksmith. So, there’s nothing to worry about.”
Yeah, what could possibly go wrong? It’s just that Yoojin lacked confidence in himself. To be honest, most people would just fall apart in front of Sung Hyunjae. It wasn’t that Yoojin was inadequate, he was just average.
Yoojin left the room along with Yoohyun. Sung Hyunjae had called him to a bar on the top floor of the hotel. It seemed like the entire floor had been emptied, Yoojin hadn’t bumped into anyone after getting off the elevator. The outer walls of the wide corridor were made of glass. And beyond the glass was the rooftop swimming pool which had a bluish glow under the light.
“I’ll wait outside.” Yoohyun said.
“There’s no need for that. If the Sesung guild leader has any conscience, he’ll let you in.”
Without responding to those words, Yoohyun sat on one of the chairs scattered along the hallway. Yoojin knew he would be like that.
“Call me if anything happens, hyung.”
That was reassuring. Yoojin proceeded to open a door that had traditional patterns and entered the bar. It was a little dark inside, but the walls facing the swimming pool were made of glass. The interior had an overall Western-style, but the garden outside was adorned with Japanese-style decorations, there were also low bamboo plants, as well as a portrait of a woman wearing Japanese clothing. Just stick to one theme, one. The diversity was making his mind restless.
Sung Hyunjae stood across the long bar. Bright lights and shiny glasses sparkled behind him. If Sung Hyunjae were a bartender, his face alone would be enough to attract customers and help the business do well, that is, as long as his drinks don’t taste deadly… But seeing how passionate the Japanese’s reactions were, they would probably stand in line for his drinks regardless of the taste, as long as it’s safe to consume.
Just thinking of those exaggerated broadcasts made Yoojin calm down a bit. He imagined they would say something along the lines of, ‘A cocktail mixed by the Thunder God, its taste tingling.’ If he thought about something like that he might actually end up laughing, so maybe he shouldn’t… But then again, Yoojin wonders what if Yoohyun made a cold fire that’s ice-blue in color? And what if Yerim… ‘No, let’s stop thinking about that,’ Yoojin thought, he couldn’t let himself be influenced by the Japanese broadcasts.
“I heard that the Sesung Guild has been facing financial troubles lately, and that’s why the guild leader has been taking on side jobs.”
Yoojin realized mid-sentence that he shouldn’t have blurted that out, but it’s not like Sung Hyunjae can’t have a side hustle just because he’s the ‘Thunder God.’ How about serving a drink that’s full of thrills? It’ll surely be one to boost sales. And, maybe also play some music in the background too. Yoojin imagined.
“You seem to be in a much better mood.”
Sung Hyunjae said, inviting Yoojin to approach. As Yoojin settled into a seat at the bar, he felt obligated to order something, but before he could, he had to know the options that were available. Yoojin wondered if the place only served cocktails. ‘Don’t they have peanuts or something like that?’
“The local broadcasts here are quite amusing, and so is the Amaterasu Guild.” Yoojin said.
Both the Lion King and the Japanese Samurai were pretty interesting people. The mere thought of Yerim trampling all over them made things even more interesting. Yoojin thought he should prepare a placard as well.
Sung Hyunjae set an empty glass before Yoojin, and as if he were a seasoned bartender, he deftly poured an array of ingredients into the shaker. Yoojin’s eyes were drawn to the movement of the shaker, and shortly after, a stream of bright yellowish green liquid soundlessly filled the glass. As for the finishing touch, a decorative straw was placed in the drink.
Despite looking like plain juice, it actually tasted quite sweet.
“I’m sure you hadn’t called me here just for a taste-test. So, what could be the matter?” Yoojin asked.
The drink was so sweet that his mouth felt bitter afterwards. Wasn’t this some kind of ‘Carrot and stick approach’ effect?
“I have one proposal to make.” Sung Hyunjae said.
A black credit card was placed next to the cocktail glass.
“I’m sure the old one has expired.”
“Could you be suggesting that we get rid of our partnership and go back to the way things were before?”
Yoojin wasn’t surprised as he had, to some extent, expected this outcome.
“I’ll annul the partnership, but I will not accept the card.”
So, the two of them are just the guild leader and the rearing facility director now. That’s all there is to it. But truthfully, there wasn’t really a need for Yoojin to form anything like a partnership with him, it wasn’t as if they were ever going to become enemies. But still, couldn’t Sung Hyunjae continue to provide some level of cooperation, at least?
“How about we write up a simple contract for each other. After all, you don’t want the world to perish, do you, Sung Hyunjae?”
Yoojin remembered the first time he met Sung Hyunjae. He had behaved like a product to him ever since the beginning. Yoojin had only been joking, and while other people may have also passed it off as a joke, three months have passed since then. It hadn’t been very long.
Yoojin thought it’d be beneficial if they established a closer connection. Sung Hyunjae’s presence alone would be very reassuring as long as he was on their side. Since he was also the number one hunter in the rankings, it would be a shame to miss out on the opportunity to share combat foresight through the Teacher skill. Not to mention also losing out on that influence of his that extends even overseas.
And, well… There are other things too.
Thinking back, Yoojin felt a little sad, but he couldn’t help the fact that he wasn’t good enough.
“…You have a lot less patience than I thought.”
An offhand comment had ultimately slipped out of Yoojin’s mouth, which prompted Sung Hyunjae to speak up.
“I’m still holding it in on the contrary.”
“Still? Well, I’m truly sorry for being an F-class that’s unpleasant to deal with.”
Yoojin wasn’t aware that Sung Hyunjae had been holding it in for this long. He felt like he should at least apologize and do something to relieve his frustration.
“I could force it out of you, about that attitude of yours which I can’t understand, and also about the things that you are hiding from me.”
He smiled softly while stating that he doesn’t hold back on his curiosities
“But I do cherish you, Han Yoojin.”
“So, what are you suggesting?” Yoojin asked.
“Something like that of a ‘protector’, you could say. That’s my proposal.”
Sung Hyunjae walked along the lengthy bar counter.
“If you can’t endure the fright of revealing your inner self and might end up collapsing from it, then what you need is to build a support rather than just coating layers of paint. Take your time and be meticulous in building a firm support. So when the time comes to empty your inner self of guilt, you can withstand it.”
Sung Hyunjae turned around the corner and came outside from the counter, approaching Yoojin. Yoojin was about to stand up, but he decided to just turn his chair and face him. The silent footsteps halted in front of him.
“So, you’re saying that you’ll be my support.” Yoojin asked.
‘But, why would that be you?’ He wondered. He still had his younger brother, his friends, and the kids that are practically his family.
Sung Hyunjae continued, “It’s not a bad thing to rely on others. It’s also something desirable unless you live in a world where you’re alone. However, before relying on other people, you should have your own foundation. Know that ‘I’ is the center of everything. If you can’t even hold onto yourself, then everything around you would just fall apart easily.”
“…So, you’re telling me to practice self-cultivation?”
“Haven’t you already pushed and criticized yourself enough, Han Yoojin? Maybe what’s more necessary right now is rest rather than practice.”
“I’m afraid I’m not that free.”
“I will create a perfect environment for you to rest, meticulously.”
Sung Hyunjae spoke in a soft and gracious manner.
“If you accept my proposal.”
Sung Hyunjae bent down on one knee and lowered his gaze below Yoojin’s as if to avoid seeming threatening like an adult would to a child.
While it’s true that Yoojin has been somewhat relying on Sung Hyunjae, was it really necessary to see him like a child?
“By the way, in case you forgot, I’m already 25 years old. Although I’m not considered old yet, I’m still an adult who started working at an early age. That’s why, I have much more life experience than you might think.”
In actuality, he was 30 years old. He wasn’t young at all.
“There’s no need to treat me like a helpless child without a guardian.”
“Both adults and children are the same. All emotions, both happiness or sadness, they feel them all equally. The only difference is that as you get older, you have to keep those emotions in check and take on more responsibilities. When you feel like crying, you’ll have to hold back your tears and when you feel like laughing, you’ll have to suppress it into a smile. Before all else, you have to first be aware of how others view you.”
“Because you’re an adult.”
Yoojin wondered if he had just lived his life as he pleased, would that make him a proper adult? Unlike an unconditionally protected child, an adult would have to put up with everything on their own. Even if they hate waking up early in the morning, they’ll still have to force their eyes open. Even if they want a break, they’ll still have to keep working. Even if they don’t like their boss, they’ll still have to put up a smile. They’ll just have to endure and adjust their needs accordingly with their present situation.
While Yoojin matured earlier than the average adult, it only meant that he had to take on more responsibilities and endure everything sooner than other people.
“You don’t have to take any responsibilities, nor do you have to put up with anything.”
The cloying words were so sweet that Yoojin thought his teeth might rot from it.
“Just live without a care in the world and do whatever you’d like. No one will interfere with you. You don’t have to worry about how other people see you, nor do you have to take any responsibilities for anything. It’ll be alright even if you choose to limit yourself to the things you want to see and want to hear.”
“Um… At that point, aren’t you just asking me to become your possession?”
“To you, I am a protector, and to me, you are a person I will protect. This will be a relationship where you may leave me anytime you are strong enough to stand on your own two feet.”
Yoojin didn’t quite understand what he was saying. And above all else, he didn’t understand why Sung Hyunjae was saying all this to him.
“Gee, that’s a surprisingly kind offer. What’s the catch? Don’t tell me there isn’t one.”
“When it comes the time where you can handle yourself, it’d be nice if you could tell me everything then, Han Yoojin.”
“…Is that all? I understand why you’d suppress the urge to make me speak against my will. But to also play the role of a protector on top of that? Why on earth?”
“Because I want to.”
Yoojin was left speechless against such a simple response. The intention behind Sung Hyunjae’s proposal was not for his sake, rather it was made simply because Sung Hyunjae himself wanted to do it. So, he is human after all. Hence, there was really no need to feel burdened by his proposal.
“To be honest, I’m tempted by it.” Yoojin said.
If Sung Hyunjae really made up his mind and mobilized all that he had to act as a protector, then there would be no better care in the world. Something like that was beyond Yoojin’s imagination.
It would be a very fulfilling and happy life.
If he hadn’t regressed, that is
“But, it’s too late now, Sung Hyunjae.” Yoojin said.
Yoojin couldn’t accept a life like that now. Sung Hyunjae probably extended his hand to him patiently because of his age. But if Yoojin was in a state where he could just give up and choose to rest, he wouldn’t even be deserving of the attention he was receiving right now. The irony of it was a bit amusing.
“Had you contacted me about ten years ago, or maybe twenty years ago? Around the time I was eight years old, I would have followed you then. I would have brought my younger brother too.”
“I’m sorry. I was still inexperienced then.”
“Thank you anyway.”
As Yoojin got up from his chair, he held his hand out. Although Sung Hyunjae did not rely on Yoojin’s help to stand up from his knees, he still held onto his hands.
“If you are as patient and overflowing with endurance as you say, then I’ll continue to count on you, Partner.”
Yoojin’s heart felt much lighter. Sung Hyunjae was then gazing down at him instead of gazing up from below. While Sung Hyunjae was looking down at him, this was the eye level Yoojin was more familiar with, but not to say that it’s bad. Sung Hyunjae’s expression reflected a hint of remorse.
“It seems as long as I show some willingness to compromise, I won’t be pushed further away.” Sung Hyunjae remarked.
“What was that? Have you made this offer to other people besides me?”
“Not to this extent, but in the past, I did inconspicuously make an offer to Chief Song Taewon to keep an eye on my back.”
“Since then, he’s been openly covering for me.”
Wouldn’t Sung Hyunjae be criticized for colluding with government officials? Chief Song would probably be the lesser affected of the two, but it’s unclear whether Chief Song would really feel he was being treated well. It’s just very ambiguous.
“I’ll keep this card in case of emergencies, courtesy of the Sesung guild leader.”
Yoojin picked up the card that was placed next to the cup. He doesn’t plan to use it carelessly like he did before. He thought he’d just keep it as a souvenir.
Yoojin told Sung Hyunjae that he needn’t see him off as Yoohyun was waiting for him outside. And before he left the bar, he turned back to look at Sung Hyunjae.
“In spite of your generosity, I have one more favor to ask of you.”
“Please stay the way you are. Don’t change or disappear. Just be as you are now.”
Yoojin was about to follow up with the words ‘until I can stand on my own two feet,’ but he didn’t. He wasn’t confident enough to say it with conviction yet. Even if he had been alone on that cruise ship, it would still have been difficult for him to gather his courage.
“If possible, don’t die either.”
“Of course not.”
His response was casual, as if they were making plans for dinner.
As he left the bar, the fact that Yoohyun was standing up caught Yoojin’s attention.
“You’re not sitting.”
“I got up after I heard footsteps.”
Right. Even if he were eavesdropping, he probably wouldn’t have heard everything that was said inside. It’s unlikely that Sung Hyunjae called him here without having verified the soundproofing first.
“Nothing much happened. Shall we go back and order room service? I’m a little hungry.”
Yoojin had already had a filling dinner before, but after taking a long bath, his stomach had already been emptied out.
“You seem to be in a good mood.”
Yoohyun muttered quietly.
“Are you jealous of the Sesung guild leader again? You don’t have to, you know. You’ll always come first.”
After all, everything that’s happening now was because of him.
“No matter what anyone says, no matter what happens, Yoohyun you are the most important to me.”
So, let’s relax and have some late-night snacks. Yoohyun nodded with a smile. As Yoojin browsed through the room service menu… he figured there probably wasn’t a Korean version. ‘Shall I call a guide?’ He thought.
Later, the night passed. Yoojin greeted the new morning with a yawn and a sleepy face as soon as he woke up. The bedding was comfortable, it was a quality befitting of a good hotel, but he hadn’t slept well. After requesting the guide to translate the TV channel schedule, he found himself sleeping late.
His main intentions were to learn more about the Japanese hunter community, but what he saw was…
[I can’t believe pink waves are swirling between Yoohyun and Yerim.]
That’s a bunch of nonsense. Well, maybe calling it ‘nonsense’ might be too much. Anyway, pink was just ridiculous. Pink is way off from the color of a fresh and lively friendship… Besides, Yerim is still a minor. If they were going to pair her up with someone, wouldn’t Noah, who’s only five years older, be a better choice?
[Still, these two are from upper-class families.]
What’s even more shocking than that was the pairing between Sung Hyunjae and Kang Soyoung. Why are these crazy people pairing up a child and an older man? ‘Could the blonde British girl be involved in a close relationship with the guild leader?’ What kind of nonsense was that? It made Yoojin want to sue these broadcasting companies. And why do they keep mentioning that she’s British? Soyoung has dual citizenship and her affiliation is with Korea, don’t they know?
[Even though love transcends age, nationality, race, and gender, the younger person should at least be in their late twenties!]
And ideally, in their thirties. Age is only just a number when both parties have enough life experience and are able to take responsibility for their own lives! Even if it’s possible to be with someone as naive as a child, would one’s conscience allow something like that?
Anyway, Yoojin was against this relationship! Even if Sung Hyunjae were to be paired with Moon Hyuna or Evelyn, their relationships would still be vague. While Sung Hyunjae treats Kang Soyoung like a child in reality, it’s also possible that he had dated someone similar to her. Somehow, Yoojin was getting curious for no apparent reason.
Yoojin was about to order room service, but it seemed better to just have breakfast together with the others. Yerim, Noah, and Moon Hyuna came back with all sorts of things from their shopping trip last night. Among them were counterfeit dolls of Peace and Chirpie. Yoojin decided to take the Chirpie doll and hand it over to Haeyeon’s legal team.
“There’s even a hunter-centric shopping mall!”
“The Hunter Market? But, you already mentioned that yesterday.”
“Not that, I’m talking about a mall that sells hunter merchandise to the general public. They sell things like photos and bromide prints. There are also lots of lion dolls.”
…Like celebrity bromides? Suddenly, Yoojin recalled the dolls of Yoohyun and Yerim which he saw yesterday. They were really cute. ‘Maybe I’ll go take a look when I have the time.’
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